Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Why Network?

Why should any person dedicate the time necessary to create a business network? Many professionals believe that it is not necessary to build personal connections with others, they mistakenly think that if they just do a good job, people will line up to do buy their product or service. One law firm I know actually bragged publicly about being the "best kept secret in the legal field." A senior partner once told me that while his firm was an Am Law 100 firm (which is a listing of the 100 largest law firms in the United States), that they did not believe in advertising or other forms of PR that would raise their visibility. He was strongly convinced that the credibility of the individual lawyers was all that was necessary. He went on to tell me that clients are sophisticated and do not like law firms that promote themselves. He would have even eliminated the firm website. While that might have worked in 1955, that is not a smart way to do business today. If you think that you are succeeding by being a "secret", imagine how much better you would do if prospects who needed to purchase your product actually knew about your existence.

Below are five reasons why everyone should network:

Your career requires you to develop new business. No matter what your role in your company, it is your responsibility to help promote the image and visibility of the firm. To relax and hope that someone else will do it for you could mean that you will eventually be looking for a new job. If you work in a professional services firm, then you must take finding your own clients into your own hands, even if you are not currently being encouraged to do so. Those with strong client relationships are never the ones who get the pink slip in rough times.

People do business with people they know and like. Although it is true that buyers use logic when researching potential vendors, they make decisions based on their gut feelings. Everyone claims to deliver great service (do you have a competitor who claims to suck?), and the prospects can often not tell the difference. An good example is to think about when you are looking at a tall building in New York City. While standing on the sidewalk, they all look very tall. If you are not up in a helicopter, then you may never know which on is actually taller. When a buyer cannot tell which company is "better"....they will always buy from the person they like more.

Knowing others makes the tough questions easier to answer. If you have a large network of business people, then if you get asked a question that is outside of your area of specialty, you can still provide value to your client. If you do not know the answer, you can lie (bad idea), tell the person asking that his inquiry is out of your field (which provides no value), or you can tell them that you personally do not know the answer, but that you can put them in touch with someone who is an expert in that area (thus positioning yourself as a resource).

It strengthens the visibility of your business. Going out into the business community and networking helps promote the visibility of your company, and makes people think of your product or service when a need arises. If your friend was a jeweler and you got engaged, whom would you turn to for a ring (hopefully you said your friend and not a stranger at the mall).

It helps you further your career . In today's business climate, you never know when you could find yourself out of a job. All kinds of companies experience lay-offs or go out of business (yes, even law firms, accounting firms, hospitals and other "professional" firms). If you have a large network of people who know you and your abilities, your phone will ring. It is much better to have people chasing you when you are in need of a job. Even if you are not out of work, you want to be the person who is considered when a big opportunity arises inside or outside your current company. If nobody knows you, they cannot call you to offer you a new job.

The bottom line is that knowing people will always benefit you and your company. Get out from behind your desk and reach out to others in the business community. Do it today.

Have a great day.

Thom Singer

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